The practice of otolaryngology includes the diagnosis and treatment of diseases/disorders of the head and neck. The head and neck appear to be, in size, a small part of the overall anatomy, but within that space there are many areas that an otolaryngologist treats.
Otolaryngologists were known, in the past, as ear, nose and throat specialists. From surgeries that appear to be routine like a tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy and ear tubes, to complex cancer surgeries involving the throat and neck, the services of the otolaryngologist are in demand.
There are many dangerous and time-consuming surgeries that are performed by the otolaryngologist. Head and neck cancers are a main focus of these specialists and include, but are not limited to, cancers of the thyroid, parathyroid, neck, salivary glands, larynx, esophagus, tongue, and lymph nodes. Skin cancers can appear anywhere on the head and neck such as the skin of the ear, scalp, or face.
Included in the scope of this specialty are diagnostic tests such as laryngoscopy, esophagoscopy, and bronchoscopy to determine if there are obstructions, polyps, bleeding, paralysis, or airway trauma in the larynx, pharynx, esophagus or vocal folds. Biopsies are taken to determine the need for further treatment. Tracheotomy is a surgery that creates a new airway to assist breathing difficulties in some cases. These are the talented hands that also repair cleft palates in newborn babies.
Moving on to ear surgeries, they include repair of perforated eardrums, mastoids and ear canals to insertion of assistive devices like cochlear implants. Sinus surgeries are quite common to open airways and remove obstructions like polyps in all four sinuses. Septoplasty repairs deviations in the septum, and rhinoplasty repairs congenital or acquired deformities of the outward look and shape of the nose.
The otolaryngologist also treats sleep apnea and snoring with surgery to clear the “collapsed airway”. And finally there are surgeries for facial trauma such as nasal bone, orbital and mandibular fractures. Indeed, otolaryngologists are some of the busiest surgeons in the hospital.
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